Our Planet: A Legacy Left to the Ultimate Brand

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Photo Credit: @outboundee

Photo Credit: @outboundee

 

In August, Iceland remembered its first glacier lost to climate change with a memorial that sets the tone of a tragic environmental narrative for the country; a narrative likely to see those that remain meet the same fate within the next 200 years. ‘A letter to the future’ reads:

“This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”

Of all legacies we leave the next generation, none will be more starkly apparent than the destruction of the planet. 

When such striking ecological changes that aren’t right on our doorstep - when watching each other melt on the Central line, or flowers bloom months before the season should dictate to then be ravaged by sudden torrential downpours - can’t trigger the emotional response called for to incite action (after all, these visual cues are in many ways seemingly innocuous), art can play a powerful role in highlighting just how much they mean on a far, far greater scale. And just how important it is that we do something.

Photo Credit: Rice University

Photo Credit: Rice University

Shot across 32 countries over 15 years, Berlin-based American photographer Mustafah Abulaziz’s monumental photography project depicting the the global water crisis is as heartbreaking as it is arrestingly beautiful.

Pantone’s development of three new exquisite hues illustrates how global warming is painting the oceanic landscape in a whole new colour palette that may be effervescent in its vibrancy but is in fact indicative of something truly dark; the annihilation of our coral reefs.

Artivist community Outboundee curates stunning iconography juxtaposing some of the many advantages afforded to us by industrial and economic development in the first world - the simple pleasure of eating an ice cream on a gloriously hot day, the convenience of fast food on the go, the ability to walk with ‘wild’ animals on a safari holiday - with the very real global ecological impact they represent. 

All of it harrowingly compelling. All of it the documentation of a devastating death cry. A cry we need to amplify in whatever way we can. 

For all the criticism thrown at her, when Emma Thompson called us to join London’s Extinction Rebellion protest she wasn’t doing it for personal profile or public recognition. She was doing it because she had a way to do just that. She had a voice she could put on loudspeaker; a voice she knew people would listen to; a voice with influence.

And brands are increasingly being called upon to take more responsibility in using their own influential weight to actively tackle climate change. A recent piece in Creative Brief speaking to industry leaders from global corporations, advertising and Extinction Rebellion itself, demanded “a step change in approach” from businesses with far more power than they care to admit. To quote William Skeaping of the cause:

“You don’t have to be on the wrong side of history. This is an industry capable of quickly shifting global public opinion and behaviour.”

Tell the truth, end toxic partnerships, use budgets to promote sustainable consumption and platforms to inspire positive, long term behavioural change. Harness good intention and “collective creative firepower” to lead conversation that drives - and, crucially, is underpinned by - action; make a statement. “Leave [y]our egos at the door” and do something. “The prize is way bigger than anything we might pick up in Cannes.”

That prize? Our planet. A planet that’s dying. A planet that, according to the latest science, we have less than 100 months to save.

91% of plastic is not recycled and if we allow things to continue as they are then by 2050 there will be 12 billion metric tons of the stuff in landfill, so Uniliever’s #getplasticwise campaign pledging to reduce packaging across ranges of its products, Sainsbury’s promise to remove all black plastic from it’s own brand products by March 2020 (part of a commitment to Wrap’s UK ‘Plastics Pact’), Morrison’s replacement of plastic bags for loose items with brown paper alternatives, Prada’s Re-Nylon project introducing the first bag made using 100% ocean waste and Adidas’ radical new FutureLoop recyclable shoes - an experiment in the drive to transition to a circular economy and the first product off the manufacturing line in a pledge to use only recycled plastic by 2024 - are all important initiatives in the fight to ensure there isn’t.

Every year, British households throw away 22m tons of waste and recycling rates have stagnated at 44% meaning that the UK looks unlikely to hit its 2020 target of 50% (and, we don’t currently have the infrastructure to recycle our own plastic it needs to be sent abroad where we can’t be sure it’s not ending up in landfill anyway). It’s become even more important for initiatives such as Waitrose’s ‘bring your own container’ policy for fruit, vegetables and dried staples like rice and pasta, clothing and fabric amnesties, the repurposing of old materials for good causes to come into play. We’re also seeing a rise of eco start ups like rCUP, the brainchild of former Dyson designer Dan Dicker, who have developed the first reusable coffee cup made entirely of used paper cups. Innovative recyclable alternatives to non-recyclable product such as this, are all indications that businesses are starting to listen.

“blog quote.”

Ten Green Bottles, a sustainability consultancy (and first start up to emerge from the FSC Social Impact Fund) leverages the power of local networks to kick start the sustainability revolution, and begin the journey towards waste free businesses: empowering collective consumer power to save the world. 

The empowerment of community is key. Extinction Rebellion didn’t draw tens of thousands to the capital and result in more than 1,000 arrests because we don’t want to do something about the terrifying fate threatening our planet.

But there’s just so much more that we can do. Things that other countries are already doing. We simply have to fight harder. 

All of us. While as individuals we may not wield the level of influence of a global megabrand or FTSE 500, we still have a part to play. That doesn’t mean we all need to march. It doesn’t doesn’t mean we all have to be bashing down the doors of our local MPs. It doesn’t mean we all have to set up businesses that drive a more responsible ecological footprint on a commercial scale or feeds huge profits back into investing in cleaning up our planet (although if you’re doing all or any of those things keep f#@king doing them!). I’m 100% with Roosevelt when he said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”, and in a sharing economy there’s enormous power in just paying forward any ‘one thing’ you have to give. 

So when brands like Coke - the most prolific brand polluter on the planet, want a pat on the back for sticking a recycling bin next to a billboard, it’s not just disingenuous ‘purpose publicity’, it’s not just opportunistic lip-service to a cause, it’s insulting. Insulting to consumers, insulting to communities, insulting to the environment, insulting to the future of an Earth we should be fighting with every damn breath we have to keep alive while we still can

Because, as the letter reads, this is not only our “time to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done”, but our time to actually do it. Only the future will know if we succeeded. But they must know we died trying. This is our legacy to leave. “Our children will not forgive us if we fail.” Nor should they.